Just in time for today’s recognition of Bill of Rights Day, the anonymous scribe within The Heritage Foundation — self-identified only as “A Conservative” — pushed the send button on a fifth electronic circular under the nameplate “New Common Sense.”
The e-circular, which bears the headline “The Constitution Protects Us Too,” reads as follows:
On Dec. 15, 1791, the first 10 amendments were added to the Constitution after being ratified by three-quarters of the states. Many Americans have taken to praising these amendments, collectively called the Bill of Rights, as providing the true protection of our liberty. But today, Bill of Rights Day, we should remember the Constitution itself is more important than any amendment.
That’s what the Founders wished for us to do. Alexander Hamilton argued that adding a bill of rights to the Constitution would be dangerous, or at least unnecessary. Bills of rights, Hamilton wrote in Federalist No. 84, are “stipulations between kings and their subjects…reservations of rights not surrendered to the prince.”
The Constitution, though, is not a bargain between subjects and kings. “We the people” vest each branch of government with specific powers. In Article I, Congress receives “powers herein granted” — not legislative power over everything and anything. Nowhere in the Constitution have “we the people” given Congress power to regulate speech or religion, or to police the states generally.
Since the Constitution enumerates which powers belong to Congress, a bill of rights “would afford a colorable pretext to claim more than were granted,” Hamilton wrote. His warnings came to fruition. Hardly anyone blinks an eye when Congress legislates on, say, which light bulbs we use in our homes.
In the public mind today — 217 years after ratification of the Bill of Rights — some amendments eclipse protections inherent in the enumerated powers. Just because Congress doesn’t violate the Bill of Rights or other amendments, however, doesn’t mean lawmakers are acting constitutionally.
This Bill of Rights Day, let’s praise the Constitution too. — A Conservative